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Footballs- Inari sushi

Posted on September 25, 2009 at 2:10 AM

The only people I know who call Inari sushi Footballs are my Japanese-American friends. When I first heard it called that way,  I laughed.  I didn't understand anything about the game because I had just moved from Japan but I knew what a football looked like and I could see the resemblance.  In Japan, we call Inari zushi Oinari-san, with an honorific "o" and "san" at the beginning and end.  It's because Inari also happens to be the Japanese mythological God of fertility.  It turns out that this God has a fox servant who loves deep fried tofu.


Don't ask me how a fox acquired a taste for such food but if you visit a shrine or temple in Japan where Inari is worshipped, you will sometimes find an Inari sushi or a piece of deep fried Tofu hanging in a place as an offering to Inari and the fox. I hear Buddhist monks don't encourage this practice but worshipers do it.  Now God Inari, the Fox and the Sushi share the same name: Oinari-san. 


In the last ten years, Inari sushi has become very popular in the US.  If there is a market that sells sushi, I usually find Inari along with California and Spicy tuna rolls.  But I never buy them.  I find store made Inaris terribly sugary and the sushi rice is often dry from sitting in the refrigerated display.  I know the health department imposes certain rules but sushi should never go in the fridge.  Inaris should be eaten right away when they are plumpy and juicy.


Inaris are easy to make at home. Kids love them.  When my son Sakae was in highschool, I would make a large plate of inaris as an afternoon snack  He would bring a half a dozen of his waterpolo team mates ( big guys) over and within minutes, all the inaris would disappear along with everything else in the fridge. 


Marking an inari is like stuffing a pillow with feathers.  Same theory applies. Try to get the stuffing to reach the corners but don't over stuff.  Start by stuffing the seasoned tofu pouches with plain sushi rice. When you get comfortable making inaris, you can try mixing plain sushi rice with vegetables.  If braising vegetables like I did in this recipe is too much work, you can shred raw carrots or slice up some cucumbers, rub them with a little salt, squeeze out the excess water and put them in the sushi rice.  Be creative.

 

RECIPIES


FOOTBALLS WITH PLAIN SUSHI RICE - Junior Varsity

What you need to make Footballs - Inaris are two things: Seasoned Tofu Pouches and Sushi Rice. 


Serves 4


SEASONED TOFU POUCHES:

16 Deep fried tofu pieces (Four pieces in a package. See picture.) - In Japanese deep fried tofu is called Age or Abura age 

1 1/2 cups Dashi (here is the link) or Dried Maitake mushrooms dashi (here is the link for the vegan recipe)

3 1/2 Tbls Sugar

1 1/2 Tbls Mirin

3 Tbls Soy sauce


 

This Oagesan brand contains 4 inari pouches.


Deep fried tofu pouches are sold in either small or large pieces. The small ones are the size of one Inari pouch.  If they are large, slice them crosswise in half and you have two Inari pouches.  Blanch the pouches in hot water to remove the excess oil before seasoning them.  Drain well.



 

Cook the blanched tofu pouches in dashi, sugar, mirin and soy sauce over low heat until the deep fried tofu pouches absorb most of the broth.  Remove from heat.  Store in a tupperware.  



The inaris will absorb most of the seasoned broth.  You want

the inaris to have some broth left in them so they come out

moist when you eat them

 

SUSHI RICE:

(makes enough rice to stuff 16 inari sushi)

1 3/4 cups short or medium grain white rice

1 3/4 cups water

2 inch piece dried konbu seaweed (optional)


Vinegared dressing for Rice:

4 Tbls rice vinegar

2 1/2 Tbls sugar

2/3 tsp salt

 

Rinse the rice and drain.  Cook the rice with the measured water and a piece of

dried konbu seaweed in the rice cooker or in a pot.  Follow manufacturer's instructions

for steaming rice.  Discard the seaweed. 


When the rice is cooked, transfer it to a large bowl.  Add the vinegared dressing by pouring it evenly all over the rice.  Cut the vinegar into the rice with a rice paddle or wooden spatula. Toss gently.  Make sure the vinegar is incorporated into the rice evenly.  


Slit one side of the seasoned pouch.  "Gently" squeeze some of the broth and open the pouch using your fingers.  Don't squeeze too much of the broth out and be careful not to tear the pouch.  If you do, chop it up and put it into the sushi rice or eat it!  You should be able to put 1/3 cup or more sushi rice in each pouch. Close the pouch so the rice doesn't spill out. Fold one end on top of the other to seal and then the pouch over to the other side so the seal is at the bottom. That will hold the pouch together.  Makes 16 footballs.


GARNISH:

4 Tbls roasted sesame seeds

Sushi Ginger Recipe  (here is the link)





FOOTBALLS WITH VEGETABLE SUSHI RICE - Varsity

Serves 4

To the plain Sushi rice (recipe above), add the seasoned chopped seasoned vegetables. Make the vegetables before you cook the sushi rice.  You can do this a couple days in advance and keep the vegetables in the fridge. 

Braised Carrot and burdock 

1 medium carrot

1/2 burdock

1 Tbls vegetable oil

1 Tbls sugar

2/3 Tbls soy sauce


Peel the carrot and burdock and cut them into 1/8 inch cubes.

Heat oil in a frying pan and saute the cut vegetables over medium heat. Add sugar and soysauce and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Set aside.





Braised Shitake mushrooms (here is the link) should be made in advance.

Slice The braised mushrooms and then chop finely.



Combine the chopped braised Shitake, Burdock and Carrots and mix them into the sushi rice. If there is too much juice in the vegetables, squeeze out excess before mixing them into the sushi rice.  


Be careful not to mash the rice while mixing in the vegetables.. A rice paddle works best.  The one in the picture is not a good example.  A rice paddle has a flat surface which works much better when mixing cooked rice.


I added a couple of tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds. 


Now the pouches are ready to be stuffed.  Slit one side of the pouch. Gently squeeze out excess broth and open the pouch gently.  Careful not to tear the pouch.  You should be able to put 1/3 cup or more rice in each pouch.  Close the pouch so the rice doesn't spill out.  Fold one end on top of the other to seal and then the pouch over to the other side so
the seal is at the bottom.  That will hold the pouch together. 



The pouches will seal themselves with the weight of the rice inside.  These are ready to be served.



Sakai's assistant helps himself to the footballs.  He ate nine in one day.  He teaches kickboxing.  I am sure he can eat more if I let him.


MENU SUGGESTIONS: Inaris, Vinegared Cucumber and Wakame Sunomono, Vinegared Ginger, Miso Soup

Categories: Rice and Sushi, Egg and Tofu, Vegetarian

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4 Comments

Reply sonoko Sakai
8:36 AM on February 7, 2010 
teetuistehoup says...
I really enjoyed reading this blogpost, keep on writing such exciting posts!

Thanks for your comments.
Reply teetuistehoup
6:36 PM on February 5, 2010 
I really enjoyed reading this blogpost, keep on writing such exciting posts!
Reply sonoko Sakai
6:30 PM on December 18, 2009 
Dawn says...
I love your blog. I just found it today and have been reading the many posts. Thank you for all the valuable and tasty insight you post. I grew up with many japanese american friends, and half japanese cousins.. I have many fond memories of all the delicious food. I found you originally by googling sushi football Inari. My parents neighbor makes delicious Inari and many other japanese delicious meals. I wanted to make this Inari myself, 3 months pregnant and I have a craving for these! Thank you again for such fun posts. The market story was great, I regularly troll the japanese markets near my parents home in the san gabriel valley, they have many more than in orange county : ( and you are right half the time I dont know what I am buying (no english translation) but buy it anyways to try it out.

Thank you,
Dawn
Reply Dawn
5:17 PM on December 18, 2009 
I love your blog. I just found it today and have been reading the many posts. Thank you for all the valuable and tasty insight you post. I grew up with many japanese american friends, and half japanese cousins.. I have many fond memories of all the delicious food. I found you originally by googling sushi football Inari. My parents neighbor makes delicious Inari and many other japanese delicious meals. I wanted to make this Inari myself, 3 months pregnant and I have a craving for these! Thank you again for such fun posts. The market story was great, I regularly troll the japanese markets near my parents home in the san gabriel valley, they have many more than in orange county : ( and you are right half the time I dont know what I am buying (no english translation) but buy it anyways to try it out.

Thank you,
Dawn